‘I couldn’t do it. I’m too jealous’. So ends most discussions I have about nonmonogamy. Like the pin that bursts the conversational balloon, bring up ‘jealousy’ and the chat comes to a grinding halt. I even, this morning, witnessed a young woman on Twitter say she’s not ready for another (monogamous) relationship since she’s too jealous. It’s as if jealousy is simply part and parcel of all romantic/sexual relationships.
There’s a cliché that rolls around my brain sometimes: ‘if you love something, let it go’ (etc). That cliché best encapsulates the non-monogamous approach to jealousy. Nonmonogamy is always letting go. It’s always letting your partner spread their wings. It’s always knowing they’ll come back as long as they want to.
Jealousy isn’t romantic, productive, positive or necessary in a relationship. Anything revolving around perceived ownership of a partner isn’t healthy.
I have an extremely close and non-negotiable friendship with an ex-boyfriend. I have close relationships with all genders. I share beds, platonically. I hold hands, platonically. I take holidays, platonically. I say ‘I love you’, and I mean it. None of this has any bearing on how I feel about the people I chose to enter into romantic or sexual relationships with. Which is why it works for monogamy, too. Jealousy of any of these things would be commonplace in a monogamous relationship. It would be expected that a weekend away with an ex would cause a fight. It would be expected that a full and frank apology would be in order for sharing a bed with a friend. Because they would have caused jealousy.
But really, what if they had nothing to do with you?
Jealousy is illogical because it asks the question ‘why am I not enough? Why do you need to do that with them?’. Whether that is eating Korean food, going on holiday, a particular sexual practice, watching horror films or, indeed, anything at all. Nonmonogamy opens your mind to the radical notion that lots of people can be good for you. That you can be attracted to and stimulated by lots of people. And not all of that attraction or stimulation has to be romantic or sexual.
Nonmonogamy can help jealousy because it helps you un-learn that you’re the centre of someone’s world. Monogamy seems to teach that one person is meant to solve all your problems, fulfil all your desires, share all your interests and exist in perfect synchronicity with you. Nonmonogamy accepts that this is not the case. It understands and anticipates conflicting schedules and differing interests. It accepts that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that one can flick the switch marked ‘sexual attraction’ into the ‘off’ position as soon as one is in a relationship. It’s the clear vision of the fact that we thrive on exchange and interaction. That we make better partners when we’re excited and happy, not when we’re feeling limited or trapped. It’s the understanding that needing romance or sex or friendship from someone else isn’t about our own ‘failings’ or ‘shortcomings’ but a natural desire to put our passion to good use.
This post was written by a RWL Guest Blogger – Bethany Carman Rutter writes the fatshion blog Arched Eyebrow. She also tweets quite a lot about a whole host of other topics.
First image via Abigail King‘s Flickr photostream. Second image by lipsticklori.
I read this as a monogamous, married person, and so much of it rings true – If, as a married person, you tell someone your husband stayed at a female friend's house/is going on tour with a female support act/is going to a gig with a female friend, people will say 'I wouldn't allow that' and 'do you think he slept with her'. Standard replies are 'I am not his owner's and 'no, I trust him'. Because the thing is, if you get jealous or don't trust the person you are in (any sort) of relationship with, you shouldn't be in it.
Extremely well said, all around. I can't even begin to list all the things I agree with on this. All sorts of excellent points.
I think it is wonderful that being non-monogamous has lead to so many people letting go of jealousy, as you so eloquently put, but given that it's not something purely exclusive to being non-monogamous (as Lisa-Marie pointed out!) it's a shame that it isn't being embraced more as a practice. Like you said, what you do with one person has no bearing on how you feel about someone else. You can only want to be with one person romantically/sexually, and still understand these things.
Maybe it'll catch on one day.
I read this as a monogamous individual in a very long term relationship, who is also close friends with two very awesome people who happen to be a couple in a polyamorous relationship.
This blog post raises some interesting issues about jealously but I feel it is unfair in it's treatment of monogamy; there is no jealousy in my relationship with my partner (or if there is, my partner who is usually vocal about issues has been very quiet about it) and this is because there is trust. That might not be the case with all monogamous relationships of course but that is a problem with the relationship itself, not with the fact that it is monogamous.
I also have to say I was disappointed with the following statement, of which I have actually seen variations of on several poly blogs: “Monogamy seems to teach that one person is meant to solve all your problems, fulfil all your desires, share all your interests and exist in perfect synchronicity with you.” This is a very unfair generalisation, and the reason I felt compelled to write this post.
It is true, of course, that some people in monogamous relationship feel this idea of a 'perfect partner'/'other half' is how a relationship ought to be, and/or that some single people feel this way about monogamy. However, I am a realist, and so are many monogamous people I know. We don't expect our partners as being our 'everything' or expect them to be all that we want in a person. We don't expect that we will never be attracted to other people (both me and my partner are aware that we are going to find other people attractive, and we also trust each other not to do anything about it). There is no 'one' person for everyone as you would no doubt agree. The choice to be monogamous is not based on some airy fairy belief about finding the perfect person for you, but rather based on a personal choice of what makes one happy; just like entering into a polyamorous relationship is one that is a choice that makes you happy. There is no 'right' way to have a relationship, and the subtext of this post seems to be 'poly = good, monogamy = bad'.
My apologies if I misread your intentions, but since I don't judge others based on their relationship choices (whatever they may be), I don't like feeling like my personal choices are being implicitly (or explicitly) undermined (which I'm sure you can understand).
There is an implication here that all monogamous couples feel that they “own” their partners which I feel is a bit of an unfair generalisation. Many, many partners in monogamous relationships allow their partners to spread their wings in lots of areas of their lives, with the confidence and knowledge that they will “come back to them”. This is not exclusive to non monogamy and is based on trust and confidence in any relationships. Happy monogamous couples are not automatically each other's handbrakes in life. Just like all non-monogamous couples are not necessarily too jealous/insecure to be in a monogamous relationship. The author writes that monogamous relationships tend to teach you that one person should satisfy all your desires, fulfill all your needs. I would like to suggest that actually any healthy, loving, supportive partner will encourage you to absorb as much of this wonderful world as possible, to spread your wings wide, to be confident and to be truly happy in yourself. Whether they are your only partner, or one of many.
Thanks for all your comments. As with all guest posts (and those written by me too!), everything contained within them is the opinion of the writer and should not necessarily be considered to represent the views of others. Everyone's opinions on relationships are a very personal thing, and it's always tricky to write about them without other people saying that it's not their experience. We're all different, and every relationship we have is different too.
I always say that it's important to *choose* the right relationship style for you. It's the people who don't actively choose monogamy – those who just go along with it because it's what you're “supposed” to do – who are usually the ones who think they need to find that one special person who completes them. The media, and our society in general, does little to discourage these people in their beliefs. Many movies, television shows, books and magazine articles continue to try to force us all to believe in absolute perfection in relationships.
The people who have commented above are all, in my opinion, extremely lucky to be in happy healthy relationships. Hopefully, one day, everyone else will also realise that honesty, trust and communication are key to a good relationship.
So I was thinking about the 'I couldn't do it, I'm too jealous' thing. I wonder if we poly types are too quick to take this statement at face value? 'Yes', we think, 'it's a shame you feel you can't overcome that, hurray for us, smugsmugsmug.' (I am exaggerating for comic effect. Mostly)
But what if this is actually one of those polite social comments? If I can't be bothered to talk about why I'm vegetarian, for example, I sometimes say 'oh, I just don't like the taste of meat' or 'I don't want to wash greasy meat dishes.' Neither of which are actually true, but they deflect the conversation and the question, and allow me to avoid saying things that the listener might not actually have wanted to hear.
Similarly, I wonder if a light-hearted 'goodness, I couldn't manage that, I'm too jealous' is in fact just filling a conversational space rather than confessing a deep truth? Maybe this comes from people who are perfectly unjealous and just think we're a bit weird, but are too polite (or care too much about us) to say so. Maybe there are any number of other reasons, perhaps very private ones, why people know nonmonogamy wouldn't work for them. We've all sort of taken it as read that this is A Truth, but maybe it's just a polite social fiction – like talking to someone who does a lot of volunteering or charity work, and saying 'oh I don't know where you find the time!' We could *all* find the time to do more activism/charity work/crafting/whatever, we just choose not to – for all sorts of good reasons.
This was the post, btw http://t.co/ssiArI9s
Ok so I’m monogamy. I have an interest with one of my close friends and he harbours the sane feelings for me.. Only he is nonmonagamous.. I have no negative feelings towards the subject and he sais he wants to be romantically involved with me as well.my only problem is in my end. When i enter a relationship with another… I don’t get jealous but i don’t like sharing my boyfriends… If you would Call a nonmonagamist and monogamist relationship boyfriend/girlfriend. It is new to me and not too sure what to do in thus situation… Anyone have any advice??
Hi Cynthia. If you’re monogamous and your friend is not, the only way you could embark on a relationship together would be to sit down and have a discussion about what you both want, where your limits are and if a compromise could be reached. You should be honest and explain your feelings. Sometimes nonmonogamous folk would consider a monogamous lifestyle with a specific person, or return to monogamy for a fixed period while they discuss jealousy and nonmonogamy with their partner. You never know what might be possible until you talk about it. The only way forward is to be bold and have an open honest discussion. Good luck!